More picks Nov. 25-Dec. 1 

  • RUSSIAN SPECTACLAR: The Moscow Ballet.
In a treat to get the whole family into the holiday spirit, the Moscow Ballet will bring its “Great Russian Nutcracker” to Robinson Center Music Hall on Friday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. The group’s 2004 tour marks its 12th consecutive year performing in the U.S. and features plenty of pageantry, the backing artistry of acclaimed designer Valentin Fedorov, larger-than-life puppets, and top Russian artists, including multiple award winners of international ballet competitions. Critically acclaimed for its “Land of Peace and Harmony,” the “Great Russian Nutcracker” has become a beloved holiday tradition throughout the United States. As a West Coast critic wrote, “Even those who know “The Nutcracker” inside out have probably never seen an interpretation as colorful and uniquely flavored — not to mention expertly executed — as a performance by the Moscow Ballet.” The newly designed puppetry features puppets that are larger than 12 feet in height, and are said to bring an eye-popping, three-dimensional effect to many of the scenic elements. Also, audiences will be treated to a first-time view of Drosselmeier’s workshop as he creates magical Christmas gifts for young Marsha (not Clara in this version) and her friends. Tickets range from $18 to $40 and are available through all Ticketmaster outlets (most Harvest Food stores), at the Celebrity Attractions office at Third and Spring Streets, or Ticketmaster charge-by-phone at 975-7575. n One of the biggest parties of the fall in Arkansas, the Bud Light Duck Gumbo Cook-off, is just one of the highlights of the 69th annual World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest and Wings Over the Prairie Festival in Stuttgart this weekend. The gumbo cook-off, held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, has drawn 48 teams from seven states. It’s grown to such immense proportions in recent years that in 2003, organizers moved it to a new home: a large tent erected on a gravel lot on Park Avenue just south of U.S. Highway 79. Admission is $15. The festival also features duck-calling contests on Friday and Saturday for all ages and for men and women, culminating with Saturday evening’s men’s championship, worth $8,000 in cash plus other prizes. The entries come from 69 sanctioned duck-calling contests throughout the U.S. A carnival atmosphere takes over Main Street in Stuttgart both days, with a midway, a collectibles show, an arts and crafts area, a Dodge Off-Road Village and a large tent featuring outdoors equipment vendors. There is no admission charge to the Main Street activities. The Lennox Sports Dinner and Dance is Friday at the War Memorial Auditorium, with music by Ultra Suede and a barbecue dinner. A 10K Duck Race is set for Saturday morning. Call 870-673-1602 for tickets to the sports dinner or for more information. n Catch an early glimpse of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s latest musical, “Children of Eden,” while helping Youth Home, Inc., by attending a special private performance of the show Tuesday, Nov. 30. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased on line at www.youthhome.org or by calling 821-5500. Tickets will also be available at the door. A reception and silent auction begin at 6 p.m. and the show curtain is at 7:30 p.m. The Rep officially opens the play Dec. 3. Stephen Schwartz, whose “Wicked” is a current Broadway hit, composed the musical that takes us through the book of Genesis from Adam and Eve to Noah. n Acoustic Sounds Cafe will host North Carolina-born and true-blue bluegrass songstress Carol Ponder, whose special love is performing a capella traditional mountain ballads, on Friday, Nov. 27. Ponder, whose latest CD is “Little Birds,” is an actress in various productions in her adopted state of Tennessee. Arkansan Dave Smith will show off his mastery of banjo, fiddle and guitar as the opening act. Admission to the non-smoking, alcohol-free show at Second Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, is $8 for adults and $7 for students. The music starts at 7:30 p.m.



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